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General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #4 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0004Lights Out

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Art Thibert
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

I’m not sure what I actually expected from this issue…but what I got wasn’t it. And this one’s actually very simplistic yet hard to sum up: essentially, it’s a couple of kids up late at night arguing over who is the better hero–Batman or Superman? Each has reasons, but ultimately it takes the intervention of another to point out that they’d actually work together if they’re both heroes, despite differences.

As such, more than any of the other issues, this one just seemed a bit “off” to me, and extremely “meta.” It’s the argument fans have had for probably three-quarters of a century. And an argument sure to come out of Batman v Superman the movie, regardless of the arguments going in. It’s a real-world argument, and one that honestly bugs me.

Long run of thoughts kept short, my answer to “who would win” is that the result is simply determined by the author and story being told.

Still, it’s interesting to see a handful of simple arguments–and to consider them from the point of view of a kid again (and likely at least a quarter-century my junior), and I can appreciate that. And like an earlier reference (that I made covering this series) to Batman: The Animated Series, this issue reminds me of an episode that itself adapted an earlier comic…one in which some young adults are sitting around a bonfire discussing Batman, and having a number of different interpretations of who/what he was (and whether it was in that comic or not I can’t recall, but my “memory” tells me in that story they dismissed the actual Batman as just some guy in a costume!).

Were this a full-size, bought-by-itself AS itself kind of issue, I’d not find it amusing or worthwhile. As something from a box of cereal, it was mildly entertaining, and did not make me feel like I’d wasted my time reading.

The art is quite good, and perhaps it was the influence of the story and that we aren’t in either hero’s head or actually involved in some ongoing story of either, the visuals just seemed to fit all the more, and differences in costume designs didn’t stand out to me along the way…perhaps taking any differences as being the kids’ own memories/interpretations. I also appreciated that even where we see an image of the two heroes about to collide in battle–that’s what it is: they’re about to, but we’re not given a “hint” one way or the other on a possible outcome…until they actually collide, one could “assume” either one could take the upper hand.

If you’ve got this issue, it’s worth reading–it’s a quick piece devoid of any continuity (and any need for continuity), doesn’t tie to anything else–outside this General Mills mini-series or otherwise, nor even other issues in this series. Other than perhaps wanting to complete a set if you have any of the others, or to complete the set by having a #4 and knowing #s 1-3 exist, I wouldn’t recommend putting much effort into tracking this (or the other issues) down. But for having them, I’m glad to have read them…though I wonder somewhat at these not being a quasi-adaptation of the movie…that would have given them a bit more weight, I guess (or mini-reprints of key issues related to the characters/movie). That these are original issues with a number of “known names” from DC and not “just” reprints is cool, despite the enjoyment I could also see in say, having a random Batman #1 or Superman #1. For that matter…any of the various Batman/Superman confrontations from over the years.

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General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #3 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0003Picture Proof

Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Marcus To
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

While it’ll probably bite me on the next issue, I enjoyed this issue more than the previous two, suggesting that each issue is better than the previous. Whether that’s relational or incidental, I’m not sure…but it works for me!

This issue shows us Emily, a young student who happens to witness Batman in action, stopping some thieves and stolen discs…though her friends at school don’t believe her. “Pictures or it didn’t happen!” and all that. Having noticed a disc that fell to the side, she returns to the scene later, anticipating Batman would as well (a bit convenient) and sure enough, he does…and this time she gets a photo of him. When she’s at school again, she continues to be teased for believing in this bat-man…and later at home wonders to herself why she didn’t just show the photo. Seeing a distinctive shadow, she finds that Batman’s shown up to pay a visit–letting her know that he knows about the photo, but that he’s not going to take it from her…he trusts her (to do the right thing). And she does–she realizes that part of the effectiveness of Batman is criminals not believing he’s truly human. She tears up the photo, opting to let Batman remain a legend rather than drag him into reality.

By comparison to the first two issues of this General Mills Presents series, this is a fantastic issue and I thoroughly enjoyed it. That the main protagonist is likely a quarter-century my junior does not stand out to me as much here as in the prior issues. This one struck me very much as something that would work as an episode of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, reminding me a lot of the “I’ve Got Batman in My Basement” episode from that series. Something about that makes this more believable to me, even though we don’t get any kind of internal dialogue from Batman (and that’s something I only just noticed with this issue: none of these are from Superman or Batman’s point of view…they’re all from a kid’s point of view, likely to identify more with the reading audience of the issues!)

I’m not particularly familiar with Marguerite Bennett offhand by name…her name looks familiar to me, but that doesn’t mean an accurate memory on my part, and I’m also unfamiliar with Marcus To and Irma Kniivila. In some ways, I think that’s to the benefit of this issue…I wasn’t trying to be familiar with other work, had no prior expectations to set me up for disappointment, and thus it allowed me to read this the way I ORIGINALLY read comics when I was first introduced to them: by character/what’s on the page, and no real notion of the people who actually wrote or drew or otherwise were part of the creation of a given issue.

As said, this story reminded me of that BTAS episode, and works very well for me as a one-off story. It’s not beholden to anything…not continued from or continued into anything else (even prior issues of this mini-series), and though 20 pages is far too short a span to really get to know any of the characters, there’s just enough there to appreciate Emily’s plight, to identify with her and her friends, and to hint at the benevolence of Batman (he seeks to inspire fear in criminals, not random children). There’s a lot to be pulled “between the panels” in analyzing the issue, but ultimately, I simply ENJOYED reading this, and in the end, that’s what reading a comic’s supposed to be about.

I was neither impressed nor disappointed in the art…but it definitely lands on the higher side than low, for me. From the narration boxes to flying through several pages pretty quickly, this had a definite visual “feel” of a modern comic, and I definitely liked that the Batman we see here looks a lot more like what I’d expect of a comic book Batman than it did some “adaptation” of a live action version.

Of the three issues in this series that I’ve read so far, this is my favorite, and certainly worth checking out if you get a chance (without spending much or going significantly out of your way in order to do so).

General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #2 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0002Field Trip

Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Federico Dallochio
Colorist: Jim Charalampidis
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

This second issue of the “cereal comics” was a good deal more enjoyable than the first for me, despite raising a couple questions in my mind. One: what’s up with Superman’s belt? Is it actually a belt, or some sort of punctuated attachment at the waist? Because it does not seem to go all the way around, but there’s a piece on front and a couple of hints of it, but it’s not actually a belt, but there’s SOMETHING there. Second, when was the last time a comic had Bruce Wayne fairly prominent without Batman or any of the rest of the Bat-family? (Leaving aside this ostensibly taking place in the “DC Cinematic Universe”). To say nothing of–as a 35-year-old adult–the ridiculousness of any other adult (particularly a CEO of a major company) having no problem with some random/unknown student straying from a tour group.

The story itself is pretty simple: a middle school (junior high) class visits Wayne Enterprises; one student breaks off from the group and (conveniently) stumbles across a gang of thieves stealing Kryptonian technology. They have a jamming device to block communication signals–including cell phones–so the student is unable to call 911. Before she can be discovered by the gang, she’s found by Bruce Wayne who followed her to make sure she didn’t get into anything dangerous. Superman shows up to deal with the thieves, and Bruce declines to step out and meet the hero at this time, while he and the student agree to hold the secret of each having been anywhere near this action.

OK, maybe that wasn’t as simple when summarized, but it read quickly. Despite my “issues” with Superman’s costume, the oddness of seeing Bruce Wayne as Bruce Wayne (and not Batman as Bruce Wayne walking amidst the citizenry in-action/on a case), and the irresponsibility of the adults, this was an entertaining enough read, and more enjoyable to me than the previous issue.

I was surprised to see Christos Gage as the writer…a name I’ve not been overly familiar with for quite awhile, but whose work I’ve definitely enjoyed in the past. While it might have colored my perspective going in, I did not actually give the credits any attention until after I read this (hence the surprise) but it does explain my enjoyment a bit. This is definitely a comic geared more for a younger reader (especially middle school age). Outside of this being a continuity-free one-off story that doesn’t “matter” anywhere else, it’s actually pretty good for what it is. I’d be curious at someone reading it without any “comics experience” and their notice (or not) of Bruce Wayne, and whether it would bother them to have him without a costumed Batman on-panel.

I’m not familiar with Dallochio‘s name or art…but the art worked well here for this story. It didn’t blow me away, but it gets everything across that it needs to, and in and of itself did not distract me from the story (just that mental tickle of curiosity about Superman’s belt, but that’s a fault of the costume design and not the specific artist, in my mind).

All in all, I liked this issue, and if you get it in a box of cereal or otherwise come across it without significant effort, it’s certainly worth reading, or at least passing along to a young reader in your life.

General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #1 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0001Playground Heroes

Writer: Jeff Parker
Penciller: RB Silva
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

It’s been several years since I reviewed “cereal comics” such as these. Unlike the last batch of General Mills Presents Justice League issues (numbered 5-8 and 9 after 2011’s 1-4) that I never got around to actually reading, these Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice issues are perfectly timed with the new movie about to hit, so I actually have an interest in reading these right away…mostly because I’m curious about the product and to look at it as an adult and consider (if only to myself) the image of these characters kids might get…remembering back to my own early time in comics with “key” issues such as The Untold Legend of the Batman, which I believe was reprinted and given away in cereal boxes in the early 1980s.

We meet Jacob the morning of a big day at school as he’s introduced to a new neighbor Lucas. Jacob’s mom is giving both boys a ride to school. Jacob’s ok with it, and does minimal duty to help Lucas…nothing antagonistic, nothing above and beyond. His attention is focused on the day’s class visit with Metropolis reporter Clark Kent to STAR Labs…an excitement that’s a bit self-centered as he overlooks Lucas getting bullied just for being “the new kid.” When aliens attack STAR, Superman appears on the scene, and watching him in action Jacob is inspired to stand up for Lucas–because it’s about doing what’s RIGHT, whether one knows if they can succeed or not. And of course, we get a happy ending as the class is safe and Jacob and Lucas have learned a valuable lesson on friendship and standing up for something.

This issue is rather simplistic in its way, rather cliché and not too exciting. Though Batman is on the cover, neither he nor Bruce Wayne appear in this issue; though we do get Clark Kent and Superman. As a mid-thirties adult, the plight of junior high children is foreign to me in all but memory, leaving me too many years removed to “identify” with the kids. Though there are aliens Superman gets to fight, they’re “new” or at least I don’t recognize them, so they’re throw-away generic characters to me. This Superman reads vaguely like one I’d be familiar with…but we get the story from the kids’ point of view, so even Clark is a distant/generic character in this story. Being from the perspective of the kids makes it a more entry-level book (which I’m sure is the point, especially considering it must be assumed that it’s kids reading this, pulling it out of a box of cereal!) For depth of characterization and story, I’m not at all impressed…but as a “cereal comic” this actually exceeds my expectation.

Much of that is probably on the art, though. The visuals fail to capture the on-screen effect of Superman’s costume, resulting in a weird appearance to the character–to me–in this issue as it unfortunately LOOKS LIKE it is an “adaptation” trying to be something other than itself. Costume design aside, I really appreciate the layouts and color work on the issue…other than the physical size of the issue, it looks every bit as contemporary as any other comic, avoiding some generic “grid” layout or such, like there’s actual layout work done and this isn’t simply a bunch of images mashed together on a page. The art also gets the story across such as it is, and didn’t leave me questioning what happened or such.

I think for me the best part of this issue is the Gary Frank/Rod Reis cover…definitely top names to me. Parker, too, rings a bell–though I can’t specifically cite what I know him from off the top of my head.

Again…this is a “cereal comic,” an insert in a box of cereal…so it’s totally separate from any ongoing continuity, and is not part of some adaptation of the movie or such…it’s just taking advantage of the timing. It’s also essentially a throwaway piece seemingly meant to entertain but other than simply BEING a comic book, it doesn’t seem to cater to trying to get someone to go get other comics (except the rest that are part of this cereal box promotion).

Me being me–a lifelong Superman fan; a regular consumer of cereal and frequently perusing the cereal aisle–when I saw the strip across the bottom of a box of Lucky Charms indicating there was something Batman v Superman related, I obviously looked closer…and on realizing it was a new comic promotion, I was genuinely excited–as much as one can be for this sort of thing–and immediately bought a couple boxes. (Over a weekend I bought several more and thus had the entire 4-issue mini with relatively little hassle and plenty of leftover cereal for the next few weeks).

This in no way feels like something essential to the movie…nor is it any great work on the character or any kind of high-literature piece. But it’s an entertaining enough story with a “named” writer and “named artists” whose names I actually recognize, rather than just some random people slapping a comic together…the names lend credibility to this project, and I’m willing to read as a result.

I don’t yet know what the next three issues will hold; whether these are functionally one-shots or if there’s a recurring situation or such…but I would hope kids that find this would enjoy reading it and at least appreciate having read a comic book.

If you’re gonna eat the cereal anyway and see any of these, it’s worth picking up…though there’s nothing here to go completely out of your way for.

The New 52! #1 [Review]

The New 52! #1

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Kenneth Rocafort, Gene Ha
Color: Alex Sinclair, Rod Reis, Blond, Art Lyon
Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Kate Stewart
Editors: Dan Didio & Eddie Berganza

This issue is mostly teaser, and seems especially designed more for those following DC‘s The New 52 for the past 9 or so months moreso than a brand-new reader that might be sucked in for Free Comic Book Day 2012.

We’re shown a sentencing for a trio of characters, all of whom–if not off the bat, then by their fates–have a certain familiarity, as we see the origin of “Pandora,” who we see here has a much larger role to play in the new DCU in the near future. These three characters have been condemned by The Wizard (as in Shazam), punished for contributions to harm of mankind. In the present day, Pandora stirs up some trouble stealing back her box as she seeks to unravel her curse, and we’re then shown a glimpse into the near-future of the DCU, and the coming “event” due out “next year.”

There’s a whole mix of art to the issue, culminating in a fold-out posterlike 4-page spread by Jim Lee spotlighting the main Justice Leaguers in the “near future.” Overall, given this is essentially a sampler issue and I had no idea what to expect of it, the art didn’t stand out all that much to me. Some characters are familiar, others not so much, and I’m not sure if the unfamiliarity I have is with the New 52 in general, or with concepts being “introduced” in this issue.

Story-wise, there’s not a whole lot; this is like having the “origin” of Pandora (and a couple other characters) thrown in front of us to pull one in, like “hey, remember these guys? Here they are! See! Now you HAVE to read the coming event!”

As a free issue…yeah, this is worthwhile. If it weren’t for the credits taking up much of the bottom of the image, I’d be inclined to pull the center out of the issue and stick it on the wall as a small poster, at least. Almost half this issue is a section of 2-ish page “previews” of the second wave of DC titles, and I skipped over ’em. I already bought Earth 2 #1, and NOT being an art person, have no interest in the 5-7+ page previews DC‘s often stuck in the back of its books, and 1-2 pages mean even less.

Probably for the worse (to me), this issue makes it clear that The New 52 is building toward some huge event (coming next year, though), and since I’m not willing to invest in a bunch of titles as-is, I have even less interest now.

Story: 4/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 6/10

Earth 2 #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Superman #700 [Review]

The Comeback
Storytellers: James Robinson & Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
Editor: Matt Idelson

Geometry
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Grounded Prologue: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Eddy Barrows
Inker: J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

So…Superman hits #700. I still remember when Action Comics hit this number nearly 200 months ago, waaaaay back in 1994.

Of course, this one somehow doesn’t seem quite as special. For one thing, it doesn’t seem nearly so special, what with Batman #700 being out a couple weeks back, and Wonder Woman #600 about to hit, and being aware of those other titles and the anniversaries.

Plus, while perhaps after 16 years I’m forgetting…right now, I’m recalling that Action Comics #700 was simply its own story, part of the single, ongoing story of the time. An extra-sized issue celebrating the anniversary, but other than the length and the tease of a wedding…just another issue.

Superman #700 is just another issue, but not in the good way.

We have 3 partial-issue stories, making this just another “anthology” of sorts, of Superman stories. The first story features Superman’s reunion with Lois, after having been away so long on New Krypton…that creative team making their exit. The middle story by Dan Jurgens is a fairly fun throwback to the days of lighter stories, and is a fairly welcome return…unfortunately, just for this story as part of the anniversary issue. The final story is a prologue to the incoming creative team.

Frankly, I’m rather tired of things jumping all over the place with the Superman books of late. If multiple issues were all advancing different sides of a story fairly equally and on a consistent basis…sure. But lately–particularly the Last Stand of New Krypton–things have seemed outright disorganized to me. Better to have one issue focusing on this element, one issue focusing on another, one issue focusing on yet another element of the story, in terms of expanding beyond a “core.”

This feels like it should be an “annual” given the anthology nature. Incoming readers jumping on for #700 may not really have any sense of the past year and a half or so of stories, so that first segment won’t mean much; and those looking to get the conclusion to the story they’ve followed for over a year and a half are stuck with material for an entirely different creative team and story that on the whole is likely to be an entire disconnect from the last couple years’ worth of stories. And the Superman/Robin story–while enjoyable and entertaining enough, being disconnected from both the other segments, would also itself seem better-suited to be a special issue all its own.

I can’t help but compare The Comeback to the sequence from Adventures of Superman #505 back in 1993 that provided the official reunion between Superman and Lois after Superman’s death and the Reign of the Supermen epic. Though now nearly 17 years in the past, I prefer that to this…this one seems somehow arbitrary, and lacked the feeling and depth of the 1993 story. The art’s not bad, but when compared to the Jurgens/Rapmund that follows, it pales significantly for me.

Geometry is a nice little tale from Superman’s early years, and shows a situation which winds up being a Superman/Robin team-up between Clark and Dick, while Bruce is unable to do the Batman thing due to an essential Wayne Enterprises function. Robin strikes out on his own for the night, having realized that an arms transaction was going to go down sooner than he or Batman had thought. Superman had already dealt with the individuals in Metropolis, and follows up on the Gotham City side, where he winds up being in time to save Robin, who got in over his head. The two share the friendly bond of being out of their element/not having Batman in the mix…though the conclusion provides a nice extra touch. Jurgens is just about my favorite Superman artist, and working with Rapmund, the art for this segment is a huge treat with some of my favorite Superman art featured in the current titles in quite awhile.

The final 10-page prologue for Straczynski‘s Grounded serves as a true prologue–setting up the story to come. Still freshly returned from a year on New Krypton, Superman has been before governmental bodies explaining what happened and his role in what recently transpired (in War of the Supermen). He is confronted by a woman whose husband recently died of cancer, and she blames Superman for not being there to save him–that his powers surely could have allowed him to “operate” where actual doctors could not. This leads to Superman brooding over the situation, blaming himself, and through a flashback to a conversation with Pa Kent, he comes to the conclusion that he’s been keeping himself above things, in a comfort zone, and must change things up and put himself back into fertile soil, wake himself up from how he’s been, to do what he really needs to do.

The visuals for this story–as provided by Barrows & co.–isn’t quite up to Jurgens/Rapmund‘s style in my eyes, but is still good quality work, and enjoyable in and of itself. No real complaint to it, and if this quality is maintained for the entirety of the Grounded arc, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.

Overall, this is the second anniversary issue this month to be more disappointment than not, though. If you’re interested simply in having the anniversary issue with a big, round number…sure, you could do a lot worse than this issue. But if you’re not an ongoing/continuing reader, the Superman/Robin story (not tied to previous nor upcoming story) is only 16 pages and certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price by itself.

I won’t go so far as to recommend against this issue, as exact interests/tastes vary in what may be desired in such an issue. But I don’t specifically recommend this, either. Ratings below based on the issue as a whole.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

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